OAKLAND, Calif. – The array of scoring capabilities has become astonishing for the Golden State Warriors, dagger after dagger from Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry. The Warriors are so sharply constructed with star power and star role players, all the franchise required was the successful partnership of the core five: Durant, Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green.
Once the Warriors completed a 132-113 rout of the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 2 of the NBA Finals for a 2-0 series lead, Durant moved closer to immortality. Durant is a generational player on what could be a once-in-a generation team, a 7-footer able to crush opponents in triple-threat position on any spot on the court. This Warriors’ team, and its potential title, will be remembered for the assembly of an all-time roster – a march toward the absolute domination of a postseason.
Golden State has overwhelmed Cleveland at Oracle Arena, negating LeBron James’ 29-point, 14-assist, 11-rebound performance on Sunday night. James showed no settling from the tip and played with a fierce sense of urgency. But the Warriors have K.D., have control of a third consecutive Finals and have shown no sign of weakening. Sometimes, these Warriors sit on the bench and ponder: Is this truly our lineup?
“Unstoppable – it’s almost there,” Warriors forward Matt Barnes told The Vertical with a smile. “The chances of Klay, Steph and K.D. all being off on the same night is rarely going to happen, and just one of those guys can carry your team. When we watch the game on the bench, it’s simple …
“We got three hired guns, an All-Star and Defensive Player of the Year-type guy in Draymond, and a lot of great role players. And K.D., he’s special, man. How far he’s come as a two-way player is phenomenal.”
The Warriors’ pursuit of perfection in these playoffs has started and ended with Durant. Thirty-three points, 13 rebounds and six assists for the former league MVP, and his co-star, Curry, had a brilliant triple-double with 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. Durant is so versatile, so effective anywhere on the floor, and Curry has the bounce in his legs and touch on his shot that appeared lacking in last year’s Finals loss.
Around the league, people have discussed whether Durant and Curry form one of the best duos ever. Yet it’s the secondary performances that make these Warriors “unstoppable:” Thompson finding his rhythm, scoring 22 points with four 3-pointers, and Iguodala, Ian Clark and Shaun Livingston wreaking havoc off the bench.
James conceded to the Warriors’ lethality after Game 1, proclaiming Durant had changed the course of The Trilogy. Another loss later, before the series shifts home for James, he clarified himself again Sunday night.
“They’re a different team,” James said. “They’re a different team.”
All because of Durant.
Cleveland can still compete, but it needs Kyrie Irving to deliver superstar play and J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson to have respectable performances. Those three are immense parts of coach Tyronn Lue’s rotation and their lack of production has created additional strain on James. Cavaliers guard Iman Shumpert was one of the Cavaliers who showed defensive resistance before dealing with cramps late in Game 2, and he made a strong case to start Game 3.
Within the Warriors, the return of coach Steve Kerr from a serious back ailment also fueled their spirit. They were confident Kerr would attempt to return at some point in the Finals. He missed the game and his players, and they missed him.
“I felt better than I thought,” Kerr told Barnes in a quiet corner of the locker room.
Kerr has alleviated the outside pressures that came with the arrival of Durant, shortcutting the sentiment that the road to a championship is easy for his team. There was a period of experimentation in the regular season – utilizing different play calls and jettisoning the stagnant play that had doomed Durant at times in Oklahoma City.
“Just having Kevin, all 30 teams would’ve loved to be in our position,” Clark told The Vertical. “At the end of the day, winning a ring is the same everywhere. We have such a special group here. We have to credit our front office for putting a team like this together.”
Clark is one of several pending free agents for the Warriors who is relishing the season after signing a veteran-minimum deal. He’ll have a decision again in the offseason, and executives believe he could command a deal over the mid-level exception. For the Warriors, however, the template has been set: Sign a bargain deal, compete for a championship during the season and increase your value for the summer.
The summer remains far off for Golden State, critical decisions yet to be made from key players. The Warriors are victors of their greatest offseason signing, and the way Durant has perfected the aesthetics of this team it all appears meant to be. They’re still perfect in these playoffs at 14-0, and Durant is on the doorstep of his first championship and validation.
More from The Vertical:
• Warriors roar to 2-0 NBA Finals lead in Steve Kerr’s return
• Why the Warriors are facing more than just the Cavs
• Game 1 illustrates why joining Warriors was right move for Kevin Durant